Stopping Cancer Early – The Best Possible Investment


Canary Challenge Featured Rider: Jonathan Chow

August 4, 2014


Lisa Chow (hat) who they are riding for, Jacob Zajac (nephew), Kieran Zajac (nephew), Brooklynn Chow, (Jonathan’s brother’s daughter). Joseph Chow (hat with sunglasses), Jonathan’s brother, Ashton Chow (blue hat) nephew Griffin Zajac (white shirt), Jonathan Chow (Grey shirt) holding the dog Barney Chow (the dog) Eva Hung (Jonathan’s wife)

By: Shannon Boselli, Canary Foundation Intern

Like most Americans living in the 21st century, Jonathan Chow has been personally affected by cancer. His sister in law Lisa was recently diagnosed with breast cancer despite no family history of breast cancer and being too young for a screening mammogram. The shock of the diagnosis was unnerving for Jon and his close-knit family. Despite the difficult time, his family was able to overcome the diagnosis with both grace and bravery, noted Jon. Instead of letting the cancer take over their lives, Jon and his brother Joseph decided to raise money for early cancer detection through their cycling in the Canary Challenge. This proactive approach to standing up for cancer grabbed the attention of the Canary Foundation and now we’d like to share his story with you.

Jon, an anesthesiologist for Kaiser Santa Clara, is a long time cyclist riding in his first Canary Challenge this September. Jonathan heard about the Canary Challenge through his close ties to Stanford and is now looking forward to doing the 75k route in a few short months! Jon has already raised over $4,000 through his fundraising emails to friends and family. His emails described his personal connection to cancer and the Canary Challenge, and pledged to match dollar for dollar for any donations that were made. He thought he would raise about $1,000 through his fundraising efforts, and was genuinely shocked to see he now is on the hook for over $4,000 from his own pocket!

Jon and Joseph are also looking to bring in a little healthy competition to the ride. Both brothers have been cycling for years despite taking breaks during medical school and busy work schedules. They believe the Challenge will be a perfect place to continue their athletic rival for a great cause.

Jon is an inspiring cyclist for his commitment to the cause. Even though this is a difficult time for him and his family, he has found a way to be positive in battling cancer while simultaneously connecting with his generous friends and family. He believes the big check he has to write, and all of the work he has put into his fundraising efforts, are completely worth it. In his belief, living in the Silicon Valley affords us all opportunities to high-end food, clothing, technology, and a remarkable way of life.  These fortunes can become a golden opportunity to give back to the charities that are working so hard to make our nation a healthier, stronger, and better place to live. Jon, thanks for your meaningful words and hard work fundraising—we can’t wait to see which brother wins the race in September!


What is your goal for fundraising this year?

This is a great story:  I wanted to get my friends to pony up for donations so I issued a challenge. I would match dollar for dollar any donations that were made.  I personally thought that my friends would throw in 20 bucks or so. So I would end up owing a thousand bucks or so. All my friends blew me away with their generosity. I’m on the hook for over 4K now!

How have you reached out to potential donors?

I just sent an email describing why I was riding and for whom. I was riding for my sister in law and brother. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer this year. The way this diagnosis has affected her and my brother was very difficult to observe. You have your whole life ripped apart. The amazing thing was watching how strong the two of them were. They were able to deal with this adversity and the accompanying uncertainty in such a graceful and brave way. I wish that I would be able to do so if such a challenge were to occur personally.

I specifically would like to thank these generous individuals:

Dr. Matt McCotter, Jason Zajac, Dr. Jamie Cheung, LK Tan, Kathy Yiu, Richard Hung, Dr. Annie Lee, Dr. Angela Feng, Fanny King, Bob Leung, Heidi Spector, Dr. Fidelia Butt, John Hwang, Andrea Sim, Dr. Giac Vu, Dr. Todd Foster, Jak Lo, and Penelope Chu.  I would also like to thank Google.  Google is extremely generous in the corporate matching. I am matching my friends’ donations through my wife Eva Hung who works for Google. The generosity of Google is rare.

What has been most successful?  

Honesty. Telling my personal story and I think issuing the challenge of matching my friends’ contribution helped.

How did you hear about the Canary Foundation/Canary Challenge? My little brother decided on this charity since our entire family has strong ties to Stanford. My family is from Palo Alto. My sister and I are alumni. My brother-in-law and my wife are also alumni. My brother is a rabid Stanford fan.

What are you most looking forward to about the ride?  

Riding with my little brother and laying the hurt on him!

We were both cyclists in high school. I had a bit of a hiatus during medical school, residency, and fellowship. I’ve been riding for the last decade or so. He just recently started back into cycling. We have always been athletic rivals so this will be a fun competition. We plan on doing the 75K. although I have already taken him on metric centuries, so who knows we may end up doing the century!

Obviously we already know about why you’re riding, but is there anything else you’d like to include about this?

I just wanted to say that I was inspired to join due to cancer hitting someone close in my family.  The interesting thing is that even though I am writing a bigger check than I ever thought I would for this cause it really has been worth it.  It is amazing to see the outpouring of generosity of friends and family. I saw an article about how if one looks at socioeconomic class and charitable giving.  As a percentage of income, the poorer you are the more you actually contribute. I donate yearly to charities but realized that this was an opportunity to “put up or shut up.” I truly wish that the more fortunate do take on a greater proportion of the charitable giving in the U.S. Especially in this area, where we are blessed with the tech economy, it seems that this would be a golden opportunity to do so.